LONDON Cambridge Consultants has won a 5-year contract, worth over £3million, with the UK government’s Highways Agency against competition from three other UK companies.
The contract will see the company develop the next generation of the Portable Standard platform, dubbed ‘PSv2’, and carry out the compatibility testing and analysis of all electronic roadside equipment, such as variable message signs, traffic measurement equipment, fog detection systems and their infrastructure.
The PSv2 platform will be used primarily by Cambridge Consultants for formal compatibility testing, ensuring that all new products work with the existing National Motorway Communications System (NMCS). It will also be used by Highways Agency contractors to test roadside equipment in the field, and by manufacturers during the product development process.
The NMCS network is made up of thousands of km of cable and fibres, connecting roadside devices used to detect road conditions and to communicate a range of data from variable speed limits through to route and traffic information. The equipment is supplied by multiple manufacturersand communicates using diverse technologies. To overcome this issue, the PSv2 platform has to receive, analyse, create and transmit messages using many different protocols and variants, including HDLC-B, HDLC-M, RS485 and TCP/IP. It then has to display all of this information in a single format for the operator to interpret.
The complete PSv2 platform will comprise two parts. A software suite that will record all the information received from the NMCS network, provides initial analysis of the raw data and presents it in an easy to read format to the operator, for further in-depth analysis and diagnosis. The software will be designed to run on a standard laptop using the Windows operating system.
An interface unit has a number of external ports supporting the multiple protocols being used and the physical difference between cabling types. Inside, it will use custom-logic circuitry and realtime, multi-tasking software, running on a single digital signal processor, to process the differing inputs and convert them from signals based on sometimes obsolescent standards, into a signal that can be transferred to the laptop.
As part of the agreement, Cambridge Consultants will also provide each of the regional control centres with a fixed PSv2 testing platform, enabling engineers and operators to analyse live network behaviour and identify problems pro-actively.
The Highways Agency, which maintains a public asset worth £65 billion and 10,500km of trunk roads and motorways throughout England, is increasingly reliant on roadside communications to improve the reliability of road travel.